When you come across a dress or suit from Smitherman & Barnwell, you'll most likely be struck by the its elegance and timelessness. Design is taken seriously at this petite fashion house. You won't find toss-away clothes. Instead they are pieces meant to be photographed, treasured and stored for the next child or next generation.
Mostly the clothes are ordered via trunk show held at private homes or boutiqes. A few retailers carry this specialty line. It is definitely for a select and selective audience. When I had the chance to interview the CEO/Designer Vondra Barnwell-Williams (a woman of strong opinions), I was blown away by her candor and her purposefulness. She doesn't mince her words--read on...
Q. What sets this brand apart from other luxury designers?
Trend, Style and Clients. Smitherman & Barnwell simply does not follow today's fashion trends and never will...if our client is 6 years old '?? she should look like a 6 year old.It simply is not our style to foster or embrace an unwholesome image of children today. Our style reflects the artwork of Picasso, Monet and Georgia O'??Keefe. If you can remember the first time you saw such artwork, you didn'??t have to take a picture - - you remembered.Our objective was to design beautiful things that people would fall in love with it.Even our logo image of the mother and daughter leaves an impression with our clients, because every client can relate to having their mother dress them up '?? it'??s a bonding experience. Our private clients care about what their children wear and know that appearance means everything. These moms know dressing their daughter as a streetwalker or a little bimbo will not cut it in the professional world.
Q. What are some fashion tips for parents trying to outfit their children in style?
Parents really need to be selective and not allow fashion trends to numb them. A buyer once said to me: '??Who wears dresses or such pretty things - kids today are into tight sparkling jeans and skulls.'? Well, think about that comment for a moment: Why would any thinking parent allow for their child to wear a skull '?? something that is linked with something from the dead, something gloomy. At Smitherman & Barnwell, we offer simple fashion suggestions when it comes to purchasing our collection. A large percentage of the clients we attract don'??t like what they are seeing in the market and really care about what their children wear.
Q. What items do you consider essential to a child's wardrobe?
For boys, a suit is always needed for that family portrait, special event or party. For girls, a few dresses for special events and, yes, even tea parties! Also, parents should invest the time to teach their children to buy smart. Show children the difference between bad cheap fabric and good fabric. Teach them about the power of purchasing a product that they will get most use out of between a trendy product that is expensive but will be out the next day. When I was young, my mother would bring me to the various high-end stores and to the garment district. My mom knew that appearance was everything and I must say she did a wonderful job, because if it wasn'??t for her artistic ways - Smitherman & Barnwell would not exist today.
My take? Yes, the wares will set you back more than the average run to the Gap, but if you love design and care about quality, these creations are a world apart from what's available to the mass public. I admire the company's vision and their commitment to keeping traditions alive!